...and yes, I haven't done one of these in awhile...
1. Angels, Demons & D'Angelo
Pretty much the mind-blower of the week was D'Angelo giving his first sit-down interview in twelve years for GQ Magazine---and whooooo baby, what a riveting interview it was, oh so riveting that you might need to catch breath after you read the last word. We least forget twelve years is a long time, so of course the the brother had this all bottled up and was probably ready to dump all of this out on everyone---and boy does he ever. He becomes completely candid as he dishes about numerous topics that give us deeper look into his psyche---which is notoriously shrouded in mystery and skepticism. His bouts with dealing with fame and his criminal past are discussed, also we learn about how his seminal hit, "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" isn't what you think it's about (it's about his grandma's soul food cooking... *mind blown*) as well as how D's spiritual side plays a pivotal role in the makings of his music. Questlove, Angie Stone, and Chris Rock (to name a few) also spoke on personal antidotes involving this cryptic creature, putting the real icing on everything.
To not give everything away, I quite loved his dissection of the sometimes dark forces that motivate an artist to create:
But after he descended into hell, Lucifer was fearsome, he tells me. "There's forces that are going on that I don't think a lot of motherf--kers that make music today are aware of," he says. "It's deep. I've felt it. I've felt other forces pulling at me." He stubs out his cigarette and leans toward me, taking my hand. "This is a very powerful medium that we are involved in," he says gravely. "I learned at an early age that what we were doing in the choir was just as important as the preacher. It was a ministry in itself. We could stir the pot, you know? The stage is our pulpit, and you can use all of that energy and that music and the lights and the colors and the sound. But you know, you've got to be careful."Also I loved Chris Rock's assessment of D in adjacent to race and his fellow brethren of enigmatic artists:
"Black stardom is rough, dude. I always say Tom Hanks is an amazing actor and Denzel Washington is a god to his people. If you're a black ballerina, you represent the race, and you have responsibilities that go beyond your art. How dare you just be excellent? [...] D'Angelo. Chris Tucker. Dave Chappelle. Lauryn Hill. They all hang out on the same island. The island of What Do We Do with All This Talent? It frustrates me."I implore you to read the full piece, because engrossed you will be. In addition to gracing us intellectually, D rekindles some of the fire I had for him with some very hot shots (I ain't even mad at the cornrows...) and also whipped out a performance of Funkadelic's "Soul Mate", you know just because he can.
As a connoisseur of cover songs, it's always a joy to hear a cover song done the right way---especially a cover of a song that is probably one of my favorite songs, ever. I adore Bobby Caldwell's 1978 hit, "What You Won't Do For Love"--it's so perfect and soulful. Along comes Jessie Ware, whom I'm already bought n' sold on, and she manages to give this song a wonderful remastering. With Sampha at the production helm (they also did "Valentine" together), the two just blow minds with their relaxed electronica soul (also dig on that Aaliyah interpolation). I did a small write-up about it on SB, and here I am talking about it again as my opinion of it hasn't changed, as this even bests Phyllis Hyman's impeccable version from 1986. Ware and Sampha just really steam the room up with this. On a side-note, Ware's debut Devotion will be seeing the light of day around late summer...can we all say finally?!?
3. Odd Renditions
I have to hand it to D.C. rapper/producer Oddisee---he's done something really grand with his Odd Renditions EP. He takes some notable tracks, adds in some intergalactic soul, shakes up the arrangements, throws in some new verses, and gives us a neat spin on the art of mash-up's. You can snag Oddisee's Odd Renditions for zero dinero (that's "money" in Spanish) over at his Bandcamp page and hear his remixes/renditions on Bon Iver, Metronomy, and K-Os. The best of the lot? The rendition of Marvin Gaye's 1965 classic "Ain't That Peculiar" takes the cake, the cookies, the pie, and the brownies.
4. Story Time With Jilly From Philly
So VH1 dusted off their Storytellers series this past Monday and had Jill Scott kick things off first---I can really dig on that scene. Jilly didn't pull out a typical performance...I mean, she's Jill Scott she's anything but typical. Donning wigs and getting her thespian on, she let several personalities come out to 'share their stories' through the songs that we know and love so much from her and it was a real treat. I truly loved that she kicked things off with a rousing 'round the way girl' performance of "Gettin' In The Way", which was the first Jill Scott song I ever heard and still remains my favorite. Though the set-list was awfully short, her performances of "The Way", "Golden", and "The Fact Is (I Need You)" were spot-on as well, heck the whole thing is a divine watch that is well worth your time. If you missed it, or want to re-watch, you can see the full performances here.
5. Whitney Sparkles Again
Since we live in the 21st Century and have zippo imaginations, we have to have a Sparkle remake. Don't know why, the 1976 original was an okey-dokey film to begin with highlights like "Something He Can Feel" and Lonette McKee's fierceness (as well as getting a good Curtis Mayfield and Aretha Franklin album out of it), but I guess we can't leave well enough alone. The trailer also doesn't help the remake a slice, as immediately it looks like a bland blend of Dreamgirls and Cadillac Records. Then again, why am I being such a party poop? It could be a lot of fun.What is probably going to make me muster up to see it is because of (duh) Whitney Houston, because who doesn't want one final glimpse of Madame Houston in her zone before she tragically bowed out this year? My main focus is the music of Sparkle, which is the driving force behind it, and two new tracks have popped up in the last week or so. We all know Houston's voice isn't what it used to be, but that didn't stop me from enjoying "Million Dollar Bill" from '09. Still Houston tackles "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" with a controlled grace that is stirring due to the circumstances. Actually it isn't half-bad. Houston is also then joined by
His Eye Is On The Sparrow